(Just slapping a gameplay video of the beta in here because the official trailers are all just like environmental fly-throughs with talking heads on them!)
So, been playing Genshin Impact these past couple of days (on PS4, but note that it is also available on PC, iOS, and Android.)
I feel like people are pretty quickly waking up to the game’s potential and what makes it interesting a little faster than I expected. I’ve seen western journalists who mostly stick to very western games and/or AAA take notice – people who would never cover a JRPG with big-eye characters as a real game.
That said, this game is just nuts, so it is not surprising it’s getting attention. It’s a full-fledged console-style action-RPG and it’s completely free-to-play. It’s also localized into EN including full voice (it has a lot of text language options and voice Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and English.) The game is developed by the Shanghai-based studio Mihoyo, who are a mobile game studio.
So, what is it, and why is it so impressive / unexpected?
It’s an open world JRPG. It obviously owes something of a debt to Breath of the Wild (it was viewed as a “Breath of the Wild clone” when it first started getting noticed) but it is not truly an attempt to “clone” that game at all, and since it’s a gacha-based F2P game but also a single-player action RPG, it liberally takes influence from a variety of games. It’s extremely anime-inflected in terms of character designs and storytelling (think stuff like Dragalia Lost, Granblue Fantasy, Tales Of) and the core combat gameplay is action-RPG with lots of elemental weaknesses and a party system where you can switch between different characters on the fly (also, what’s the point of a gacha without multiple characters?) It’s also a lot of fun and very robust action gameplay in a very well-realized world. Great character and enemy animations, beautiful towns and vistas, SO MUCH TO DO.
The game is fully just an open world RPG, completely realized and high-quality, you can play on a PS4 or even a phone for free. If anything, it runs better on an iPad pro than on a non-pro PS4. But on all platforms it’s really playable.
It is an F2P game so it has a lot of the usual hooks and systems of F2P mobile games (gacha, dailies, multiple currencies, quests to cash in for rewards that are just more currencies you need to manage for various different reasons, ad infinitum. In particular the weapons upgrading system feels very “mobile game” rather than like console JRPGs.) But you really can play it just like a “regular” single-player game without worrying about the majority of this, at least early on (it came out the day before yesterday, and I am mobile game conversant, so it’s hard for me to say either what it’ll be like in the long run OR what it would be like not understanding these systems.) The fact that you can “just play it”, though, is so important. (For example, though it’s got a character gacha, you get enough characters that are good enough just playing the single player story you don’t really need to worry about this.)
But I’m kind of getting into the weeds here, so, let me make what is remarkable clear: This is a free, high-quality console JRPG in feel and execution. It looks like a $60 game and is of the quality that if it had been a premium game, it would not be shocking at all. In pure point of fact, it looks and plays better than a lot of the current crop of $60 console JRPGs. I would easily have bought this and I will tell you that personally I like it a hell of a lot more than I liked FF7R (which I did not like very much, frankly! YMMV there.)
I am happily playing this and it makes me wonder if I would really spend $60 on a new Tales Of game again. I feel like Level-5 must be shitting its pants.
Yes, I honestly feel like this game could change the industry fundamentally. I do not think that Western console dudes who buy in to the idea that spending $500 on a PS5 is worth their money and who are going to buy and play FF16 because that’s what you do, will have their minds changed by this game. But I feel like a lot of people on the margins (from mobile gamers to people who just want to play a fun RPG, kids who grew up with anime and don’t see it as “weird”, whatever all else!) will give this game a try, particularly as it picks up steam and hype on social media. I mean, what’s actually stopping you? That is the whole idea!
And there’s no real reason the studio couldn’t turn its attentions to developing a game in a style that appeals more fully to Western console gamers and potentially eat some of Ubisoft’s lunch (that, of course, is easier said than done, and I have no idea how long this game was in development or how much it cost to develop, of course.)
So, yeah, I am less thinking this is going to “kill” anything, but it does seem like a game changer, and I do wonder what things are going to look like in five years.